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  • Writer's pictureLulwa NAMAN

Why is High School Musical Such a Sensation?

Can someone honestly claim not to know at least one musical number from the HSM trilogy by heart? Whether a superfan or have watched it once, High School Musical is an iconic part of the 00s kids’ childhoods. Love it or hate it, one will never forget it, nor will they hear the end of it.

The films star some of Hollywood’s most credible actors and actresses such as Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale. It centres around the lives of high school students, facing the everyday conundrums of a teenager bombarded by social expectations. Theatre continuously acts as a symbol of unity and the destroyer of cliques and status quos throughout the trilogy.

It’s a natural instinct to seek to fit in or become socially acceptable during teenagehood. High school is infamous for its cliques and groups, which students stick to. These groups often revolve around interests such as sports, science, theatre, and more. Unfortunately, it becomes impossible for a person in a particular clique to have interests outside of the status quo. Although some people thrive in these surroundings, such as the queen-bee of the films, Sharpay Evans, others wish to break free from the labels without being judged by their peers as outlined in the musical number, “Stick To The Status Quo”. The way each character breaks out of their shell throughout the song cannot fail to inspire watchers to do the same and leave the fatality of their assigned stereotype. In “Breaking Free”, one of the biggest hits, Gabriella and Troy, the two lovebirds, defeat all expectations and do what they love despite discouraging judgment from others. Surprisingly though, their friends supported them and they were praised for showing that they are more than what they seem. The destruction of social barriers has made the films a must-watch for the coming-of-age child growing up in a critical environment.

Representation of all races and nationalities is crucial, and High School Musical gives a chance for all children to see themselves as main characters, making a significant difference to the world. Taylor McKessie and Chad Danforth are two examples of African-American leads, who are depicted as athletic and intelligent: both positive qualities. Gabriella Montez is Hispanic and her culture is shown in a positive light and celebrated in scenes with her mother. There are no stereotypes made about their ethnicities and all cultures are respected. The vast representation allows relatability to a wider audience, making the films more popular worldwide.

Interview with Sophie Gunneberg

High School Musical has spread so far across the world that it infected the musical theatre industry, leading to the birth of High School Musical On Stage! in 2007. This has now blossomed into a popular choice for productions in theatre schools and high schools, with popular demand from students. Pre-confinement, a local theatre school put on a production of this show starring high school students from all over Geneva. Sophie Gunneberg, 18, was an actress in the musical.

What was the environment like in rehearsals, was everyone excited to do the show?

I absolutely felt buzzing and it was super exciting and nostalgic. It was my final show at Simply Theatre and it completed the experience all the way around. It was awesome to be performing what I grew up with and the original show that got me into the theatre. It was a dream being realised and it was surreal.

Did a lot of people already know the lyrics to the songs?

What was fun about this one was the challenge since everyone knew the lyrics but different harmonies were used in the musical context. There was a different lyrical mindset for all the songs and that was challenging. Nobody memorises the bass line of High School Musical songs!

What do you feel makes High School Musical so iconic?

I think it came out at a time where we hadn’t had the popularity of film musicals. They were not that relatable and were considered things for old people. High School Musical brought coolness and a new teenage lens into musicals. It was special because it made the stereotype of the ‘theatre kid’ cool.

Why do you think the theatre was used as a way to bring everyone together?

Bringing people together is a role theatre plays a lot of the time. At first, it is usually looked down upon. When the cool kid first tried it in the movie, theatre is looked at as ‘cool’ when it usually is not seen that way in school. HSM shows an awesome message.

Released by Disney late in 2019, High School Musical The Musical The Series is a TV show surrounding the lives of students who attend the high school that acted as the set of the original movies. As the title suggests, a drama teacher sparks the production of the musical that various students sign up for (mirroring the original films). When global lockdown struck, the show skyrocketed in viewership and social popularity. There was the initial fear of some fans that the series would not do justice to the films and would ruin something that was so perfect, but many would agree that there was no disappointment. In 2021, the song “Driver’s License” was released by Olivia Rodrigo, the female lead of the series, and gossip illuminated from the interpretations related to her co-star Joshua Bassett, potential man-Fatale. The popularity of the series took another spike as the song took the top spot on the charts.

References to HSM have been made by countless pop-culture media such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, South Park and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, further emphasizing the universal love for the films and the world’s passion for them.

Enjoy your High School Musical lunch boxes and dustbins, and let them make you feel fabulous!


Lulwa Naman


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